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Neve Campbell's Best Film And TV Roles To Date

The release of "Scream," the fifth installment in the "Scream" franchise, will bring Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott to a whole new audience as she takes on the Ghostface serial killer once more. For many older viewers, Campbell is inextricably linked to this role, which launched her into the mainstream and cemented her status as a literal scream queen. Yet Campbell has done much more. She's worked for over three decades — since the 1990s, when she first broke out as a star of the beloved family drama "Party of Five." Some might consider the '90s as her heyday but in fact, Campbell has never left, appearing in a number of great films and TV shows since folks first met her as Julia Salinger back in 1994.

Although Campbell's work in "Scream" may have pigeonholed her as a horror actress, her choices show that she's much more than that. Her work ranges from drama to horror to rom coms, with the one common thread being that her characters will often surprise you. Campbell exudes a sweetness and gentleness that can belie a strength and toughness underneath, which allows her characters to straddle the line between passive and active. Campbell will soon star in David E. Kelley's "Lincoln Lawyer" on Netflix, but until that comes out, we'll have to look back to her prior roles for entertainment. If you can't get enough of this actress, this list of her best film and television roles is for you. 

Sidney Prescott (Scream)

Audiences first met Sidney Prescott in 1996 as the reluctant heroine of Wes Craven's "Scream." Sidney is trying to grieve her mother's death, but instead finds herself fighting for her life against a masked killer who seems omnipresent and omnipotent. "Scream" was a box office success, raking in $173 million worldwide and revitalizing the slasher genre. It was also a cultural milestone, as Kevin Williamson's self-aware, pop-culture-reference–laden script turned the horror genre on its head. It also broke from the genre's tropes by creating a new type of Final Girl: one who isn't a virgin or a "good" girl," but instead a complex, layered, emotional character.

It's hard to imagine anyone but the seemingly vulnerable Campbell playing Sidney Prescott, not even the original choice of Drew Barrymore. Sidney wavers between grief and anger, fear and action, vulnerability and strength. She's not just a hero; she's a survivor. PTSD hardly ever gets acknowledged in this trauma-centric genre; Sidney's is not only acknowledged but is actually a crucial part of the story. She's caught in a past that won't let her go, even as she tries to move on. Campbell's Sidney opened the door for a new era of strong, complex leading women.

Julia Salinger (Party of Five)

Many were first introduced to Neve Campbell as a sensitive teenager in the '90s drama "Party of Five." The series follows the five Salinger siblings, who are orphaned after their parents are killed in a car accident. The ensemble cast included Matthew Fox, Scott Wolf, and Lacey Chabert as Campbell's brothers and sisters, who are all trying to navigate this unexpected turn of events that makes them all grow up a bit too soon.

At the start of the show, Julia is 15 and still reeling from her parents' deaths six months prior. Sensitive, intelligent, and kind, she represents the emotional part of the Salinger family psyche. Julia is very connected to her family and cares about what they think, but she also wants to be her own person. She rebels and finds herself in her own ways, such as falling for a bad boy, Griffin (Jeremy London). One of Campbell's best moments is when Julia decides to get an abortion at 18. The AV Club calls Campbell the "secret weapon" of "Party of Five" and in episodes like this, she showcases the quality that would launch her to a new stardom in "Scream": softness on the outside, but toughness on the inside. In both Julia and Sidney, Campbell embodies this quality and truly shines.

Bonnie (The Craft)

1996 was a good year for Neve Campbell, as it saw the release of both "Scream," her first headlining film, and "The Craft," a witchy horror film."The Craft" is a who's who of alternative '90s stars: Neve Campbell, Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, and Rachel True play a group of teenage outsiders who turn to the occult to solve their issues. Robin Tunney is Sarah, a new girl in a small town, who befriends her school's group of "weirdos": Nancy (Balk), Rochelle (True), and Bonnie (Campbell), who are all outcasts for one reason or another. The women connect over witchcraft and loneliness and use their powers to get back at people who hurt them.

Campbell plays a supporting role as Bonnie, whose body is covered in burn scars after a terrible car accident. She's shy and self-conscious, but with the arrival of Sarah, whose powers shift the dynamic of the group, Bonnie sheds her outer protective layer to become more empowered and confident. While it wasn't a hit with the critics, "The Craft" has become a cult classic as people have discovered something resonant in this film's depiction of the complicated power of female anger and community. Robin Tunney even confirmed that "The Craft" is Natalie Portman's favorite guilty pleasure. "The Craft" works because of the chemistry of its four main characters and Campbell fits right in as she embodies the shyer side of femininity. 

Suzie Toller (Wild Things)

John McNaughton's "Wild Things" showed viewers a side of Neve Campbell that was nothing like what they'd seen in "Party of Five," "Scream," or "The Craft." The film follows Matt Lombardo (Matt Dillon), a high school teacher accused of sexually assaulting two students, Kelly (Denise Richards) and Suzie (Campbell). After the two women reveal that they lied about the assault, a police detective (Kevin Bacon) decides to keep investigating the three of them, as he feels something fishy is going on. Lies, murder, and threesomes ensue in this sexy murder mystery thriller where nothing (and no one) is as it seems.

Campbell's Suzie grows up in a lower-income home; dismissed by everyone else as "trash," she leans into the role in a way that masks what's underneath. No one knows what's really going on with Suzie — particularly the audience, which expects a Neve Campbell character to be soft and vulnerable. Campbell uses this expectation to her advantage as she plays with Suzie's wildness and anger, leading to one of the most talked-about scenes of the '90s: a sudden threesome with Matt Dillon and Denise Richards. While Campbell didn't follow the path of this departure from her typical characters too far (it began and ended with "Wild Things"), it was enough to imprint itself in the cultural consciousness of anyone who came of age in the '90s (see "Pen15" for proof).

Sarah Cassidy (Panic)

In Henry Bromell's 2000 film "Panic," Neve Campbell plays Sarah, a woman who falls for the wrong type of guy. Sarah meets Alex (William H. Macy) in the waiting room of their therapist (John Ritter). She's attracted to him but feels wary of getting involved since he's married. Unbeknownst to her, he's also a professional hitman. The film follows his life as he tries to navigate his crumbling marriage, ambivalence to his work, and deepening feelings for Sarah.

Despite the subject matter, "Panic" is really a character-driven piece that revolves primarily around Alex and Sarah. Campbell shines opposite Macy as the two occupy seemingly different stages in life: she's 23, free, and self-aware, while he's in a mid-life crisis, wondering who he is and how to get out of it. Sarah is observant, initially wondering if he just wants to find a young woman to shake him out of this, but she retains her trademark vulnerability. Campbell is a nice foil to Macy's Alex in this film, which manages to be funny, warm, and a realistic look at the doubts that arise when you finally realize you haven't made life choices for yourself.

Leann Harvey (House of Cards)

Season 4 of "House of Cards" introduces audiences to a new face in DC in the form of Neve Campbell's Leann Harvey, a Democratic political strategist. Harvey joins the team of Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) as her campaign manager and her power grows as she hitches her wagon to the toxic Underwood train. Harvey works her way up to become Chief of Staff, but as with everything in "House of Cards," she can't just get something without giving something in return. For Campbell, "House of Cards" is actually a scarier world than the one in "Scream," as someone like Frank Underwood feels more nefarious: "With Ghostface, at least you know what the rules are...but [with] Frank Underwood, you just can never tell where he's coming from" (via EW).

Leann is seemingly a good guy with a strong moral compass, which is a rarity in "House of Cards." But as with any character that Campbell plays, there's more than meets the eye. Leann will do what's necessary to get what she wants. As she's enfolded into the arms of the Underwoods, she starts dreaming bigger for herself. Campbell describes it to EW: "she's very good at finding ways of making [what she wants to happen] happen, which is fun to play. She'll do whatever it takes to move up." Leann is ambitious, calculated, and — for the two seasons she's on the series — a standout in Campbell's capable hands.

Loretta "Ry" Ryan (The Company)

Before she was an actress, Campbell was a dancer. She was a member of the National Ballet School of Canada as a kid, but left after getting injured. In fact, Campbell told The Guardian that she "never wanted to be an actor. It was something I found a passion for; it wasn't there immediately." So perhaps it's no surprise then that Campbell merged her two careers — dancing and acting — in Robert Altman's "The Company," a movie about dancers at the Joffrey Ballet. The film is a slice of life of the dance world, focusing on Ry (Campbell) as she trains and works in her ballet school.

"The Company" is Campbell's passion project, as she conceived of the idea, enlisted Barbara Turner to write the film, and then produced it. With the exception of Campbell, James Franco, and Malcolm McDowell, the cast is made up of real Joffrey Ballet dancers, so Campbell had to re-train to keep up with them after nine years away from her first love (via Today). Campbell wanted the film to be "Altman-esque" to capture the flow of the dance world; once Altman came on board, he cut a lot of dialogue to focus on the movement of the characters, turning the film into a dance itself (via Today). It pays off, as Campbell shines in a role that's so clearly close to her heart. Her movements speak for themselves in this quiet, beautiful film.

Diane (Welcome to Sweden)

"Welcome to Sweden" is a series that brings Neve Campbell to, well, Sweden in a recurring role on this sitcom. Greg Poehler (brother of Amy) is the creator and star of this show about Bruce, an American man who moves with his girlfriend, Emma (Josephine Bornebusch), to her homeland of Sweden. Campbell plays Diane, the new head of marketing at Emma's job, who butts heads with Emma as she's willing to do anything to get more likes for the bank's social media.

The fish-out-of-water premise of "Welcome to Sweden" allows for hilarious misunderstandings and situations, which the show emphasizes with excellent cameos from stars like Aubrey Plaza, Amy Poehler, and Jason Priestley. Campbell's turn as Diane is a refreshing departure from her typical serious fare, wherein she "play[s] the straight and narrow and let[s] everyone else spin around me." (via The Guardian). Diane is obsessed with social media and fully committed to the "vision" she has for the company. Campbell is hilarious in the role, and it's good to see Campbell letting her hair down because as they say, when in Sweden...

Julie Black (54)

Mark Christopher's 1998 film "54" transported audiences to the famed New York City nightclub, Studio 54, in 1979. The film centers around Shane (Ryan Phillippe), a Jersey boy who moves to New York City after getting a job at Studio 54. He dives headfirst into this world of hedonism, losing himself as he tries to discover who he is. Amid the sex, drugs, and disco, Shane meets Julie (Campbell), a fellow Jersey girl and soap star who wants to break into serious films. The two have a short-lived romance. Although they part ways and decide to just be friends, they'll always have 54.

Despite its star-studded cast (like Salma Hayek and Mike Myers) and historical roots in a bygone era and infamous nightclub, "54" didn't quite land with the critics (its soundtrack is another story). Regardless, Campbell stands out as Julie, a woman who feels stuck in her career but can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if it's just a sparkly disco ball shining over the crowd at Studio 54. She's determined to use that as the way to get what she wants. It's a delight to see two '90s heartthrobs — Campbell and Philippe — together. It's also great fun to watch Campbell in a film that somehow encapsulates both the '90s and '70s all at once.

Rebecca Fine (Castle in the Ground)

Joey Klein's 2019 film "Castle in the Ground" takes a heavy look at the opioid crisis as it devours a young man, his mother, and others in his orbit. Henry (Alex Wolff) is 19 and taking care of his mother, Rebecca (Campbell), who's dying from cancer. She's been prescribed opioids for her treatment. As he delivers them to her, both of them get caught in its gaping maw. Alex tries to find hope in his world as he connects with his neighbor, Ana (Imogen Poots), but instead, he just falls deeper and deeper into the abyss of addiction.

Although Campbell has done her fair share of serious, dark roles in a variety of genres, "Castle in the Ground" is perhaps her darkest yet. Rebecca is a mother who knows she's dying and leaving her son alone and there's nothing she can do about it. She turns to the opioids she's been prescribed as an escape from and answer to this painful reality. Campbell is heartbreaking as Rebecca. While the film keeps her contained primarily to her bed, where she lives out her haze of reality and fantasy, she fills that space with a presence that's at turns quiet and raging.

Olivia Maidstone (The Philanthropist)

"The Philanthropist" is a television series inspired by the life of Bobby Sager, which basically tells the story of James Bond as a well-meaning philanthropist. The show stars James Purefoy as Teddy, a billionaire who is grieving the death of his son. After rescuing a boy from a hurricane in Nigeria, he decides to spend his life and money helping others. Teddy is a narcissist, playboy, and vigilante who still tries to love others as much as he loves himself (and his son). Campbell plays his business partner's wife, Olivia, who runs his charitable foundation.

In some ways, Olivia is the brains or logistics of the operation as her work as the head of Teddy's charitable foundation puts her in the deep end of the world of philanthropy. Where Teddy is flashy and running around, trying to save the world, while Olivia remains grounded and solid. Campbell is a good foil to Purefoy. Unsurprisingly, there's a bit of sexual tension between them (and perhaps a bit of history too). While "The Philanthropist" was cut short after just one season, it offers a sometimes-unexpected portrayal of a tired trope (rich white savior helps poor and non-white folks) thanks to the work of its creator, Tom Fontana. Fontana created "Oz" and cut his teeth writing on "St. Elsewhere" and "Homicide: Life on the Street," which gives "The Philanthropist" and Campbell's role in it more than meets the eye.

Allie (Walter)

Campbell reunites with "Panic" co-star William H. Macy and several others in the surreal drama "Walter." The film centers around the titular character (Andrew J. West), a multiplex worker who believes that he's the son of God and the final word on whether people go to heaven or hell. His complicated life gets a bit more so when he's visited by Greg (Justin Kirk), a super annoying ghost who's stuck in purgatory and wants to be sent one way or the other before having to witness his ex-wife, Allie (Campbell), marry someone new. Virginia Madsen, Milo Ventimiglia, and Peter Facinelli round out this all-star cast of people in Walter's orbit as he tries to figure out how to do what's right.

Allie is a nurse who had an affair with Walter's late father (Peter Facinelli), which complicates his judgment both of her and Greg. Considering the fantastical nature of the script, Campbell offers a welcome solidity in this world where a seemingly regular movie ticket-taker might have the ability to send you to hell and where Virginia Madsen compulsively cooks dozens of eggs for every single meal. "Walter" is a strange, funny indie film (William H. Macy runs with it as an irreverent psychologist) and is a welcome addition to Campbell's body of work.